California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


U. S. Refractories Company

History


In February 1920, U. S. Refractories Company began building a refractory plant on Orcutt Road in San Luis Obispo. The reason for locating here was to manufacture chrome refractory bricks utilizing chromite ore from the local chromite deposits. Initial plans were to process 25 tons of chromite ore to manufacture 5,000 brick daily. The total quantity of chrome brick produced is unknown, but it probably was small. The plant had closed in 1921.

In 1922, the company was reorganized with a capital stock of $100,000 with plans to enlarge the plant for making insulating brick. The company found a local diatomite deposit in Clark Valley and excellent for making insulating brick. The insulating brick plant cost $60,000. It contained a four-mold press with a capacity of 20,000 brick per eight-hour day, and two round 30-foot downdraft kilns. The insulating brick carried the trade name of "Incello."

In 1923, the officers of the company were R. W. Hull, Sr., Dr. N. J. Shields, F. H. Throop, R. W. Hull, Jr., W. T. Reid, M. D. Baldwin, C. M. Carpenter, and J. H. Hollister. R. W. Hull, Sr., was president; Dr. N. J. Shields, vice-president; R. W. Hull, Jr., vice-president; F. H. Throop, treasurer; and M. D. Baldwin, secretary.

In 1923, the road to the Incello diatomite mine was completed and a $3,000 dryer and rails were installed. When completed, it was reported that the plant was expected to produce 400,000 brick per month.

In 1924, the Incello Company was formed to mine the diatomite at its mine. The company capital stock was increased from $200,000 to $1,000,000. New officers elected included C. H. Camm as president; W. H. Emory, vice-president; Dr. N. J. Shields, secretary; Lafe Todd, treasurer; W. T. Reed, J. H. Hollister, R. R. Leslie, Robert Hull, Jr., and R. F. Richardson, directors. W. H. Emory, who came from Pacific Clay Products, was the general manager. R. R. Leslie was in charge of the mining, transportation, and production.

The company was not listed in the annual production review for California in 1926, so the plant must have closed. The production of insulating brick in the last few years was probably less than 1.2 million. Today, all evidence of the U. S. Refractories plant at San Luis Obispo has been erased.

U. S. Refractories Brick

The U. S. R. Co. firebrick is salmon color and uniform. Form is good with straight sharp edges and sharp corners, if not broken. Surface is smooth with 3 percent visible black round iron spots with blistered holes, as much as 3/8 inch in diameter. The marked face is centered with the company abbreviations "U. S. R. CO." in recessed block letters, which span 4 1/2 inches and stand 3/4 inch. Periods are square shaped. This brick was made using soft-mud process. Variations noted in the width. Length 9 1/16, width 4 1/4 - 4 1/2, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the marked face of the U.S.R.CO. firebrick.
View of the marked face of the U. S. R. CO. firebrick. Collection of Sam Burton.

View of the side of the U.S.R.CO. firebrick.
View of the side of the U. S. R. CO. firebrick. Collection of Sam Burton.

View of the side of the U.S.R.CO. firebrick.
View of the back of the U. S. R. CO. firebrick. Collection of Sam Burton.

View of the end of the U.S.R.CO. firebrick.
View of the end of the U. S. R. CO. firebrick. Collection of Sam Burton.

References

Bradley, Walter W., California Mineral Production For 1926, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 100, 1927, 175 p.

Burton, Sam, personal communications, 2017.

Clayworker, v. 78, no. 1, 1922, p. 50.

Clayworker, v. 78, no. 2, 1922, p. 178.

Incello Company property, mindat.org (accessed 18 October 2017).

Mining In California, California State Mining Bureau Report of the State Mineralogist, v. 18, 1923.

San Luis Obispo Telephone Directory, 1920.

To Turn Out 5,000 Chrome Brick Daily, Brick and Clay Record, v. 56, no. 4, 1920, p. 343.

To Remodel Chrome Brick Plant, Brick and Clay Record, v. 58, no. 2, 1921, p. 146.

To Reorganize Refractories Company, Brick and Clay Record, v. 60, no. 13, 1922, p. 1010.

Tomatzky, Lynette, Los Osos/Baywood Park, Arcadia Press, 2016.

U. S. Refractories Builds First Unit, Brick and Clay Record, v. 62, no. 5, 1923, p. 432.

U. S. Refractories Completes Road, Brick and Clay Record, v. 62, no. 13, 1923, p. 1152.

U. S. Refractories Improves, Brick and Clay Record, v. 63, no. 4, 1923, p. 274.

U. S. Refractories Forms Incello Co., Brick and Clay Record, v. 64, no. 6, 1924, p. 438.

Copyright 2017 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.